Cadmium: facts & figures

Cadmium levels in the U.S. population


Urinary cadmium levels in the U.S. population

Urinary cadmium in mcg per gram of creatinine. Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Cadmium levels remained relatively constant in the U.S. population between 1999 and 2012.

For each group, the median is a urinary cadmium level that 50% of people tested fall above and 50% of people tested fall below. The 95th percentile is a urinary cadmium level that 95% of people fall below. It shows cadmium levels in the most highly exposed people.


Urinary cadmium levels in the U.S. population by age

Urinary cadmium in mcg per gram of creatinine. Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-12.

Cadmium levels are highest in people 20 years and older. This is because cadmium can build up in the body and remain stored for several decades. The median cadmium level in children 6-11 years old was below the laboratory limit of detection.


Urinary cadmium levels in the U.S. population by sex

Urinary cadmium in mcg per gram of creatinine. Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-12.

Cadmium levels are higher in women than in men. We do not know all the reasons for this difference. One reason may be that cadmium is more easily absorbed into women’s bodies because they often have lower iron levels.


Urinary cadmium levels in the U.S. population by smoking status

Urinary cadmium in mcg per gram of creatinine. Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-12.

Both median and 95th percentile levels are higher in smokers than in non-smokers. Exposures approaching levels of concern can be caused by long-term smoking of cigarettes and other tobacco products.


Urinary cadmium levels in the U.S. population by race/ethnicity

Urinary cadmium in mcg per gram of creatinine. Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-12.

Cadmium levels are higher in Asians compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.


Cadmium is a common metal

Cadmium is a natural metal found in the earth's crust. Cadmium enters the human environment in many ways, including through mining and the burning of fossil fuels. Cadmium is used in various metal alloys and metal products, artist paint pigments, as well as in some retail products such as batteries and jewelry.

Exposure to cadmium can harm your health

Cigarettes and other tobacco products are a large source of cadmium exposure for smokers. People can also be exposed to cadmium in their diet, at their workplace, or through contact with cadmium-containing products.

Long-term or high-level cadmium exposures can result in harm to the kidneys, and lungs, and can cause cancer. In children, researchers are evaluating the toxic effects of high levels of cadmium on children's brains and nervous systems.

Biomonitoring measures cadmium in people

Biomonitoring measures the amount of cadmium in people's urine and blood.

The data shown in the graphs are for the U.S. population (6 years of age and older) as a whole, and are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How can you reduce exposure to cadmium?

You can reduce your exposure to cadmium by not smoking; welding in a fume hood or with appropriate ventilation; using artist paints, ceramics and pottery that do not contain cadmium; preventing children from mouthing consumer products that contain high levels of cadmium; and properly handling batteries and inexpensive jewelry.

What is being done about cadmium exposure in Minnesota?

  • The Toxic Free Kids Act requires that MDH maintain a list of priority chemicals in the state that may be harmful for child development.

  • The Environmental Health Division at MDH has developed guidance values for the amount of cadmium in water that is safe to drink.

  • A Minnesota law limits the amount of cadmium permitted in jewelry intended for children 6 years of younger.

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